Alta prepares for emerald ash borer damage

Friday, August 23, 2019

By STEPHANIE LYNAM

Pilot-Tribune Staff

Ash trees in Alta have experienced a severe disease over the past two years, and the City of Alta plans to designate a secure location to dump the infected dead trees to keep them in one area to limit the bugs from traveling to other counties.

In 2017, the city suspected an infestation, and the state etymologist positively identified some ash trees in Alta with the emerald ash borer infestation, said Kris Kohl, an Agricultural Engineer for the Iowa State University Extension Office in Northwest Iowa who oversees 20 counties. The infestation started with a bug which he said multiplies rapidly. They think the bug came from China on a pallet, he said. It was first discovered in Michigan and now has spread to 30 states.

The Alta infestation was the first in the region. As of 2018, nearly 50 ash trees in Buena Vista County, which Kohl said is a relatively low number, have been cut and disposed of in an area near Alta. Some residents with infected ash trees have chosen to treat their trees in the hopes of survival. Its expensive to treat the trees, Kohl said. It costs about $200 per year to save a pretty good-sized tree. The treatment will kill the bugs which lays its eggs on the outside of the tree, and if residents treat their trees, the cost could amount to $2,000 per tree over several years, he said, adding that if residents do not want to incur the cost of treatment, they should consider having their ash tree cut down and disposed of, and replacing it with another type of tree.

Ash wood is popular for making firewood, he said, and he believes county residents know not to transport the wood across the county line which could take the infestation to other counties.

At a summer special meeting of the Alta City Council, they discussed securing a new location in the southwest section of Alta to dump the dead ash trees. Its probably going to be some kind of secure space, Kohl said. He emphasized that the infected trees need to stay in Buena Vista County to contain the infestation. Since the bugs can only fly short distances, Its better to let them fly rather than give them a free ride, he said of ensuring the trees are not transported out of the county.

DNR regulations do not allow entire trees to be burned - by the city or by residents, city officials noted at a recent council meeting.